It’s 4:20 in the morning and I can see the stars. This is a bit glamorous, I think as I flag down a taxi on a nearly deserted Third Avenue below our apartment.
I have had plenty of early morning flights, but this will be my first pre-dawn departure since moving to Manhattan over three years ago. I imagine the Chrysler Building winking down on me from further uptown, sprinkling me with moonlight New Yorkiness for being hip enough to be up at this hour.
The night before, I imagined in my mind’s eye recapturing a few minutes of lost sleep as the taxi took me to the airport at the speed of Robert Moses’s dreams, 1960s-era highway speed. That was a dream.
Back in reality, something is wrong: we are headed downtown. LaGuardia Airport is uptown or over, being that it’s in Queens. We are heading south, though the driver seems totally certain of it.
After second-guessing myself several times, I finally ask, “Why are we headed downtown?” The driver responds, “This is super secret shortcut, we take the Williamsburg Bridge. This saves twenty minutes.” Trusty Google Maps said the entire trip would be 23 minutes.
My thoughts are the only other vehicles on the road. Indignation: This guy has no idea where he’s going. Doubt: Don’t second-guess a cab driver. He’s a professional. Self-doubt: Am I too nice? Is this how Canadians feel? Resignation: I’m stuck here, just relax. You planned for spare time.
At this point we have crossed the East Village, turned left onto Houston Street and are now ascending the Williamsburg Bridge. The driver assures me this is a shortcut once again as he accelerates. As if to prove himself right, he keeps his foot on the gas well past the 45-mph speed limit: 50, 55, 60, 65, 70, 72.
Our presence expands to two bridge lanes as we challenge the laws of thermodynamics. New York drivers “take the lane”. This is normal, right?
Wrong. Suddenly, honking as we’re passed in our right-hand lane. My brain turns on and activates its next emotion: Fear.
We are a pinball sent ricocheting up the expressway. The concrete retaining walls guide our path. I hope he’s better at pinball than I am.
I am sure the driver will activate the Flux Capacitor and my wristwatch will start running in reverse.
Moments later I check my phone: He’s done it, he has transcended time. The last hour has actually only been 15 minutes.
We continue to exist in two lanes, for stability, I assume, as I gird myself for takeoff. Hours or minutes pass. Not soon enough we angle off towards the airport and promptly pull up at the wrong gate.
Wait, this guy doesn’t know directions? He knows the super secret shortcut. He has the flux capacitor. Reality begins to creep in, though it’s still black as night outside the window.
We make the rounds of the entire airport to circle back around to the proper gate at a reasonable pace. It’s 4:50am. The light of day has still not shown on any of this adventure.